Our Gastroenterology Blog
Posts for category: Gi Care
no longer contract to push food along. If you or someone you know has achalasia, a gastroenterologist can provide you with ways to manage your symptoms.
What are the symptoms and signs?
The most common signs of achalasia include,
- Difficulty swallowing
- Regurgitation of food
- Choking (often during regurgitation)
- Chest discomfort, particularly after eating
How is achalasia treated?
Achalasia requires treatment to prevent the condition from getting worse. As you might imagine, not being able to properly eat or drink anything can have detrimental effects on a person’s health and nutritional needs, as well as increase a person’s risk for aspirational pneumonia and lung infections (this is more common in seniors). Common treatment options include:
- Surgery: Traditional surgery, known as Heller myotomy, is the most common way to treat achalasia and it involves cutting the muscles of the valves that lie between the stomach and esophagus. Some patients may be candidates for laparoscopic surgery, which is a more minimally invasive technique.
- Balloon dilation: For patients who may not be able to undergo surgery, another way to treat achalasia is with balloon dilation, which is a non-surgical technique performed under moderate sedation where a balloon is placed into the esophagus and inflated to widen the area so food can easier go from the esophagus into the stomach.
- Botox: Botox may help to relax muscle spasms and to improve how food flows through the esophagus. Those patients who aren’t candidates for surgery or dilation may want to consider the benefits of Botox.
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic bowel disease that causes flare-ups of inflammation and bleeding ulcers in the colon and rectum, which can affect your ability to digest food. Ulcerative colitis is one of the two main types of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).
Are you dealing with unexplained and persistent stomach pains accompanied by diarrhea? This can be an early warning sign that UC. In the very beginning, you may notice minor symptom flare-ups that can easily be attributed to a variety of other problems. So, it isn’t always easy to spot the signs of UC right away.
- Joint pain
- Sores and rashes
While there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, your gastroenterologist can prescribe medications, therapies or surgery, and recommend lifestyle changes that can help with symptom remission and reduce the number and severity of flare-ups. Treatment plans for UC typically include,
- Anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids
- Immunosuppressants reduce inflammation by suppressing the immune system
- Biologics, which also act on the immune system
- Pain relievers
- Dietary changes (eliminating gluten and dairy; limiting fiber intake)
- Stress management techniques
- Supplementation (iron may be prescribed if you have anemia caused by UC)
- Anti-diarrheal medications
- Surgery to remove the colon and rectum (in more severe cases)
If you’re dealing with heartburn, one of the first things your gastroenterologist will examine is your diet. While certain foods can exacerbate heartburn and make it worse, certain foods can improve and ease acid reflux symptoms. Some of these foods include:
Foods that are high in fiber such as oatmeal aren’t just amazing for your digestive tract, they may also prevent heartburn from brewing in the first place. Plus, whole grain foods can help satiate your appetite for longer, which means that you are less likely to go for snacks and other foods that could cause a nasty bout of acid reflux. So, start your morning right with a hearty bowl of oatmeal. And perhaps you may even want to add a….
Just like vegetables, a banana is a low-acid and high alkaline fruit that is also great for the digestive tract. If you battle with heartburn, bananas can help prevent stomach acid production while also helping things run smoothly through the digestive system.
Whether you prefer ginger sprinkled into your morning smoothie, a soothing cup of ginger tea or fresh ginger grated into your water, this magical vegetable reduces inflammation and can aid in preventing and treating heartburn as well as calm an upset stomach and ease nausea.
Leafy Greens and Veggies
Fibrous vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, potatoes, and asparagus are alkaline, which helps to keep stomach acid in check. This is also because these delicious and nutritious foods are low in sugar and fat, which means they are friends to those with heartburn.
We all know that yogurt has amazing probiotic properties, providing your gut with the good bacteria it needs to stay healthy and strong. Good bacteria can also improve how your immune system functions, staving off germs and infections, while also coating and easing stomach acid.
Whether you have questions about your current heartburn-friendly diet or you’re having trouble getting your acid reflux under control, a gastroenterologist will be able to provide you with proper long-term medication and lifestyle changes that can help.
You may benefit from a colonoscopy if:
- You are a man or woman over the age of 50 (those over 50 years old are at an increased risk for colorectal cancer)
- You have a family history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps
- You have a personal history of cancer or colon polyps
- You’ve been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease)
- You are experiencing symptoms of colorectal cancer such as blood in the stool and unexpected weight loss
- You are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms such as rectal bleeding and abdominal pain (a colonoscopy can diagnose certain intestinal problems)
You will be placed under conscious sedation while undergoing a colonoscopy, so you will most likely not remember any part of your procedure. During the procedure, your gastroenterologist will carefully place a colonoscope, a thin tube with a camera at the end, into the rectum, and guide it into the large intestines (aka the colon). This procedure allows your doctor to be able to examine the lining of the intestines to look for polyps, bleeds, ulcers, or other issues you may be dealing with. If polyps are found, they can be removed during your colonoscopy.
While age, ethnicity, and gender can play a role in your colorectal cancer risk level, there are other factors as well; however, these factors can be altered by simply improving your lifestyle. These factors include:
- Smoking or using tobacco products
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
- Eating a poor diet that is high in processed foods
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Certain medications
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive amounts of dairy products, including cheese and milk
- Not going to the toilet frequently enough
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Abusing laxatives
- Changing your diet to include fiber
- Drinking plenty of water throughout the day to soften stool
- Staying as active as possible
- Switching routine medications (with your doctor's approval)
- Limited use of laxatives (enemas, glycerin suppositories, stimulant laxatives)
- Daily fiber supplements (psyllium or bran cereals) or stool softeners
- Greasy and fatty foods
- Spicy foods
One of the most effective screening methods for detecting the earliest signs of colorectal cancer is through a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy allows a gastroenterologist to be able to examine the lining of the rectum and colon (lower intestines) to look for precancerous polyps and other warning signs. These precancerous polyps can also be removed during a colonoscopy before they have the chance to develop into cancer. This is why colon cancer screenings are so important.
Who should get regular colon cancer screenings?
Men and women who are between the ages of 45 and 75 should see their gastroenterologist for regular colon cancer screenings. While there are other methods for screening for colon cancer (e.g. stool test; flexible sigmoidoscopy) a colonoscopy is the most effective and accurate screening tool available.
If a patient has never had polyps or other precancerous warning signs they may not need to get further colorectal cancer screenings after age 75. Patients with risk factors may require additional routine screenings after the age of 75.
Of course sometimes it’s necessary to get a colon cancer screening before 45 years old. You may benefit from getting tested earlier if:
- You or an immediate family member has a history of colorectal polyps or colon cancer
- You’ve been diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease (e.g. Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis)
- You lead an inactive, sedentary lifestyle
- You have a poor diet that is high in fat and low in fiber
- You’ve been diagnosed with diabetes
- You are obese
- You are a heavy alcohol consumer
- You are a smoker
- You’ve undergone radiation therapy to treat cancer
If you have any risk factors it’s important that you talk with your gastroenterologist to find out when you should start getting regular screenings and which screening is right for you based on your health coverage.
What should I expect from a colorectal cancer screening?
As we mentioned, the most common screening tool for colon cancer is a colonoscopy. During this procedure we will insert a thin flexible tube (called an endoscope) into the rectum and gently guide it through the large intestines. At the end of this endoscope is a camera. This camera will allow your GI doctor to look for polyps and other problem. If polyps are found they can be removed during your colonoscopy. If nothing is found during your diagnostic testing, a colonoscopy can take as little as 30 minutes. The patient will be under the effects of conscious sedation throughout the procedure.
Do you have questions about getting a colonoscopy? Is it time to schedule your first routine colon cancer screening? If so, then call your intestinal doctor today.
Diverticulitis is a condition in which small pouches or sacs called diverticula form in the large intestine, or colon, and become inflamed. When the sacs are inflamed, they can bulge outward and cause abdominal pain and discomfort. In addition to abdominal pain, several other symptoms can be associated with diverticulitis. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with this condition, see a gastroenterologist for a diagnosis and possible treatment options.
Symptoms & Causes
The exact cause of diverticulitis is unclear. However, there seems to be a link between a diet too low in fiber and the development of diverticulitis. When fiber is lacking in the diet, the colon works harder to move stools through the intestinal tract. It is possible that the pressure from the increased effort to move the stool can lead to the formation of diverticula along the interior of the color or large intestine. Maintaining a diet with sufficient fiber intake can potentially help prevent diverticulitis.
Various symptoms can be associated with diverticulitis. Abdominal pain is a common symptom and tends to be felt primarily on the left side. Other symptoms associated with diverticulitis include:
- abdominal pain
A variety of options are available for treating diverticulitis. For less severe cases, a combination of antibiotics, pain relievers and a liquid diet can be sufficient to resolve the diverticulitis. More serious cases of diverticulitis in which patients cannot drink liquids can require a hospital stay. While in the hospital, all nutrition will be obtained intravenously. Avoiding eating and drinking by mouth gives the bowel time to rest and recover and can help clear up the diverticulitis. If the condition is still severe, surgery might be required.
Diverticulitis can result in a lot of pain and discomfort. Fortunately, there are treatments that can provide relief. See a gastroenterologist for diagnosis and a treatment plan.
If you’ve been dealing with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and you have either been ignoring your symptoms or haven’t been able to get them under control then you could end up dealing with Barrett’s esophagus, a serious complication of GERD that causes the lining of the esophagus to mimic the lining of the intestines.
There are no unique symptoms associated with Barrett’s esophagus, as many of the symptoms are the same as they are for GERD; however, a reason that patients shouldn’t ignore symptoms of GERD is that Barrett’s esophagus can increase the likelihood of developing an extremely serious and life-threatening cancer of the esophagus.
Symptoms to be on the look out for include:
- A burning sensation in the back of the throat
- Persistent cough
Even though Barrett’s esophagus is not a common complication of acid reflux, if someone experiences persistent acid reflux this can alter the cells within the esophagus over time to resemble the cells found in the lining of the intestines.
You may be screened with Barrett’s esophagus if you have some of these risk factors:
- Over 50 years old
- Hiatal hernia
- Chronic GERD
- Obesity or being overweight
A gastroenterologist will guide a small flexible tube, known as an endoscope, into the throat and down into the esophagus. This is performed under light sedation. At the end of the endoscope is a camera that allows a gastroenterology doctor to take a biopsy of the lining of the esophagus.
The biopsy sample will be tested for cancer or any precancerous cells. If Barrett’s esophagus is detected in the sample, further endoscopies may be required in the future to detect early warning signs of cancer.
Treating Barrett’s Esophagus
While this condition cannot be reversed there are ways to at least slow down or even prevent the condition from getting worse by getting your acid reflux under control. This can be done through a variety of lifestyle changes (e.g. quitting smoking; changing diet; losing weight) and either over-the-counter or prescription medications (e.g. H2 blockers; proton pump inhibitors).
If you are dealing with acid reflux a few times a week then it’s time to turn to a gastroenterologist for more information. By getting your GERD under control as soon as possible you could prevent complications such as Barrett’s esophagus. Call your gastroenterologist today.
Peptic ulcers, or stomach ulcers, are breaks or holes in the lining of the stomach. An ulcer in the first part of the intestines is known as a duodenal ulcer. An ulcer in the stomach is known as a gastric ulcer. If you think you may have an ulcer, you should see a gastroenterologist. Gastroenterologists are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of peptic ulcers. Here are 5 signs you may have a peptic ulcer.
1. Burning pain- The most common peptic ulcer symptom is a burning sensation or gnawing pain in the middle of your abdomen. The pain may come and go for several days or weeks. Even though discomfort may be mild, peptic ulcers can worsen if they aren’t treated. Taking antacids can relieve the discomfort, but it will keep coming back until the peptic ulcer is treated by a doctor.
2. Nausea- The symptoms of peptic ulcers may include nausea. Nausea is a feeling of sickness with an inclination to vomit. Nausea has many possible causes. Some common causes of nausea include appendicitis, infection, reactions to some medicines, migraines, food poisoning or intestinal blockage.
3. Vomiting- The symptoms of peptic ulcers may include vomiting. Vomiting after consumption of food may be caused by an ulcer, food poisoning, or gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining). Usually, vomiting is harmless, but it can be a sign of a serious condition. Some examples of serious conditions that may result in vomiting include Acute liver failure, appendicitis, Pancreatic cancer, or intestinal blockage.
4. Discolored stool- Blood in the stool is often a sign of a problem in the digestive tract. Blood in the stool may come from any area along your digestive tract. A stomach ulcer can cause discolored stools that appear darker or bloody. A bloody stool may indicate that your stomach ulcer is growing in size or is becoming more severe.
5. Heartburn- Another symptom of peptic ulcers is heartburn. Heartburn is a condition that's caused when stomach acid flows up into your esophagus. This leads to a burning discomfort below your breastbone or in your upper belly. Your doctor will prescribe medications to relieve your symptoms and help your ulcer heal.
If you have any of these signs and symptoms, you should seek treatment. A visit to the gastroenterologist will bring the relief you need. Peptic ulcers can not only be uncomfortable causing you pain but can also lead to other complications that may be dangerous.
Got heartburn? Heartburn, also known as acid indigestion, is a form of indigestion felt as a burning pain in the chest. It's caused when stomach acid flows up into your esophagus. More than just a minor discomfort, acid indigestion can reduce quality of life. The following tips will help you rid yourself of heartburn.
1. Change your diet. Stay away from beverages and foods that commonly cause heartburn. A good way to work out what beverages and foods trigger your heartburn symptoms is to keep track of what you eat. Common offenders include tea, coffee, tomatoes, garlic, fatty foods, spicy foods, milk, chocolate and peppermint.
2. Don't overeat. Overeating can trigger heartburn. Big meals put pressure on the muscle that helps keep stomach contents from backing up into the esophagus. The more food you eat, the longer it takes for your stomach to empty, which contributes to acid reflux. Try eating five small meals a day to keep reflux at bay.
3. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can trigger heartburn. Alcohol can relax the sphincter muscle at the lower end of your esophagus, causing stomach acid to flow up into your esophagus If your aim is to unwind after a long day at work, try exercise, stretching, listening to soothing music, or deep breathing instead of drinking alcohol.
4. Lose weight. If you overeat, lose weight- but be sure to consult your doctor before starting a vigorous exercise program. The increased risk of heartburn is thought to be due to excess abdominal fat causing pressure on the stomach.
5. Stop smoking. Nicotine is a muscle relaxant. Nicotine can relax the sphincter muscle, causes acid from the stomach to leak upward into the esophagus. Nicotine gums, patches, and lozenges are healthier and safer than cigarettes, and they are less likely to give you heartburn.
6. Contact your doctor. Your doctor may suggest antacids for occasional heartburn. Sometimes, more powerful prescription medications such as proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers and are needed to treat chronic heartburn. When all else fails, surgery may be required to repair the LES.
Chronic heartburn can affect your daily activities and make life frustrating and miserable. Don't hesitate to contact a gastroenterologist about heartburn.
What is diverticulitis?
Normally, we pay no attention to our large intestines, but if you have symptoms of diverticulitis, you're well aware of your bowel. Painful, inflamed bulges in the intestinal wall, diverticula are worrisome and potentially dangerous. If your physician suspects you have this GI condition common in the over-60 population, seek the services of a gastroenterologist. Specially trained in diverticulitis, and the less serious diverticulosis, a GI specialist can diagnose and treat your bowel health for better long-term function and well-being.
Symptoms of diverticulitis
Diverticulitis is serious infection which requires medical attention. Symptoms include:
- Intense lower abdominal pain
- Blood in the stool
- Pus and mucus with your bowel movements, indicating infection
- Fruits and vegetables
- Dairy products
Is it constipation? Is it diarrhea? Frankly, when a patient complains to his or her physician about GI problems, the doctor has to wonder, "Is it Irritable Bowel Syndrome?" If you alternate between infrequent and too frequent bowel movements, you may need evaluation by a gastroenterologist. An expert in all things from your esophagus through your stomach and intestines, a GI doctor can uncover the reasons behind bowel issues, including IBS.
About IBS and its symptoms
Unfortunately, no one knows the real origin of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. However, it definitely is a cluster of symptoms which millions of people in the US--more women than men--suffer, before the age of 50. The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders reports that stress appears to increase symptoms; however, anxiety and a high-pressure job or life circumstance do not actually cause the condition.
Besides constipation and/or diarrhea, individuals with IBS have:
- Bouts of gas
- Mucus in the stool
- Intolerance to a variety of foods, including those containing gluten and lactose (dairy)
- Dairy products
- Caffeinated drinks
- High fat or fried foods
- Whole grains
Unfortunately, many of us eat the foods we crave before thinking about how it affects our digestive health. Your digestive health is directly impacted by the lifestyle you live and the foods you eat. Exercising, drinking water, and adding fiber all contribute to better digestive health. Here are five digestive problems that are caused by a poor diet.
1. GERD- GERD is a digestive disorder in which stomach acid or bile irritates the food pipe lining. Symptoms include heartburn, hoarseness, and trouble swallowing. Some foods and beverages are known to cause reflux. If you're at risk for GERD, avoid fatty foods, acidic foods, spicy foods, chocolate, and caffeinated beverages. Being overweight and obesity are also causes of GERD.
2. Cancer- Diet can also directly affect your risk of stomach and bowel cancer. Some foods, such as processed and salt-preserved foods, and red meat can increase the risk of developing stomach and bowel cancer. While others, such as vegetables and fruits, are especially potent cancer fighters. Choosing whole-grain breads, cereals, and pastas instead of refined grains, and eating poultry, fish, or beans may also help lower your risk of stomach and bowel cancer.
3. Gallstones- Slimming down (if you're overweight) and changes to your diet may help prevent gallstones. Gallstones are hardened deposits of bile inside the gallbladder. Because cholesterol plays a role in the development of gallstones, you should avoid eating too many foods that are high in saturated fat. Eating too many foods that are high in cholesterol and fat and not enough of a high-fiber diet can increase your risk of gallstones.
4. Ulcerative Colitis- Eating a high-fat diet increases the risk of developing ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is a digestive disease that results in inflammation and ulcers in your digestive tract. Symptoms of ulcerative colitis include fatigue, rectal bleeding, anemia, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and feeling an urgent need to take a bowel movement. It's a serious disease that can cause dangerous complications if you don't get the right treatment.
5. Diverticulosis- Diverticulosis is a condition in which protruding pockets develop in the digestive tract. These pouches form when high pressure inside the large intestine pushes against weak spots in the intestinal wall. A high-fiber diet will reduce the risk of developing diverticular disease. Symptoms of diverticulitis include abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloody stools, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Diverticulitis can become serious, requiring hospital admission.
We really are what we eat! Swap those poor eating habits over for better ones. A healthy diet provides important minerals, vitamins, and nutrients to keep the body healthy. You can start making proactive changes to your diet today that can benefit your digestive health now, and throughout your entire life.
Gallstones are a very common problem. You're at risk of developing gallstones if you're overweight or obese, female, or 40 or over. Gallstones are hardened deposits of bile inside the gallbladder. Many people with gallstones are unaware that they have them, as they produce no or little symptoms. For some people, however, gallstones can cause problems. Here are four signs and symptoms of a gallstone.
1. Abdominal Pain
Symptoms of a gallstone may include severe abdominal pain. This pain goes and comes back repeatedly. The pain often occurs after eating and can last a few hours before it resolves. Chronic, ongoing pain that persists beyond a few hours may also occur, and may indicate a severe gallbladder problem.
2. Referred Pain
Gallstone pain can cause referred pain to the upper back and right shoulder. The pain usually comes on suddenly and may last for several hours. Prescribed painkillers are used to relieve pain associated with gallstones. You may also be given advice about eating a healthy diet to help control the pain.
Jaundice is a symptom of gallstones. Jaundice is a yellowish appearance of the whites of the eyes and skin due to high bilirubin levels. If a stone moves out of your gallbladder and one of your bile ducts and blocks the bile flow, jaundice occurs. Sometimes the gallstone passes from the bile duct on its own. If it doesn't, you may need to have gallbladder surgery.
A gallstone can cause nausea and vomiting, which may relieve some of the abdominal pressure and discomfort. Pain that occurs with appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, and a fever may suggest the presence of infection or inflammation of the gallbladder. Vomiting and diarrhea also occur with food poisoning and the flu, but the pain tends to come and go rather than be constant.
If you're experiencing the symptoms of a gallstone, you should notify your gastroenterologist right away. When a gallstone blocks your bile ducts, it can cause excruciating pain, which means you need emergency care right away.
Diarrhea is very common. When you have diarrhea, your bowel movements are loose and watery. In most cases, diarrhea lasts a couple of days. Chronic diarrhea is diarrhea that lasts longer than two weeks. When diarrhea lasts for weeks, it can indicate a serious disorder. Although diarrhea is usually not serious, it can become dangerous or signal a more serious problem. Read on to find out how chronic diarrhea is treated.
1. Replacing lost fluids- Chronic diarrhea is treated by replacing lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. Adults with diarrhea should drink water, sports drinks, sodas without caffeine, or fruit juices. Fluid can also be delivered through a vein (intravenously) if the dehydration is severe.
2. The use of medication- Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics and medications that target parasites to treat parasitic or bacterial infections. If a virus is causing your diarrhea, antibiotics won't help. Pain relief medications can help alleviate fever and pain. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to treat an underlying condition that may be causing your chronic diarrhea.
3. Treating medical conditions- How doctors treat chronic diarrhea depends on the cause. Chronic diarrhea is sometimes caused by an underlying medical condition that requires treatment. Common conditions that cause diarrhea include irritable bowel syndrome, Chrohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and chronic pancreatitis.
4. The use of probiotics- Your doctor may recommend probiotics to treat diarrhea. Probiotics are good bacteria that are very similar to the bacteria that are already in your body. Probiotics reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. If your gastroenterologist recommends probiotics, talk with him or her about how much probiotics you should take and for how long.
Chronic diarrhea can affect your daily activities and make life frustrating and miserable. Don't hesitate to contact a gastroenterologist about diarrhea. A visit to the gastroenterologist will bring all the relief you need, with little hassle or expense.
Having trouble going to the bathroom? Find out what might be to blame.
Constipation is an annoying and embarrassing problem that all of us will experience at some point. Constipation is when you are unable to have a bowel movement or you have trouble passing stools. If you are having less than three bowel movements a week then you could be dealing with constipation.
This problem isn’t usually something to worry about, as it usually resolves itself on its own. Of course, there are times in which you may want to turn to a gastroenterologist for care.
What causes constipation?
This usually happens when the stool moves too slowly through the digestive tract, making it difficult to expel. Causes of constipation include:
- Poor diet
- Bowel obstruction
- Anal fissures
- Bowel stricture (narrowing of the colon)
- Conditions that affect the nerves of the colon or rectum (e.g. stroke; Parkinson’s disease)
- Weak pelvic muscles
- Hormone changes due to pregnancy, diabetes, or certain thyroid disorders
There are also certain factors that can increase your chances for chronic constipation:
- Age (older adults are more likely to experience constipation)
- Not getting enough fiber in your diet
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- Taking certain medications (e.g. antidepressants; blood pressure medications)
- Certain mental health disorders such as depression
How can you prevent constipation?
If you deal with constipation regularly there are some ways to help lessen the chances for this problem. Make sure that you are drinking enough water throughout the day and include a lot of fiber-rich foods in your diet such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and beans. Stay away from processed foods, and make sure you are staying active.
When should I see a doctor?
It’s a good idea to give your GI doctor a call if you’ve been experiencing constipation for over 3 weeks or if lifestyle modifications such as drinking more water or adding more fiber to your diet just aren’t working. It’s also important to see a specialist as soon as possible if your constipation is accompanied by pain or if you see blood on the toilet paper (this could be a sign of hemorrhoids or an anal fissure).
If you are experiencing chronic or severe constipation it’s a good idea to turn to a GI specialist who will help you get to the root of the problem and help get your digestive tract moving in the right direction.
This diagnostic procedure could determine the root cause of your digestive issues.
An upper endoscopy is a simple procedure in which your gastroenterologist will insert a small, flexible tube that contains a camera in the mouth and guide it carefully into the upper digestive tract (stomach and small intestines). Why is this outpatient procedure performed? Many reasons, actually. Your gastroenterologist may recommend getting this procedure if there are signs of bleeding within the upper digestive system.
An endoscopy is also a great tool for being able to detect inflammation within the digestive tract, as well as ulcers and tumors. You may benefit from an endoscopy if you are experiencing:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chronic heartburn
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Nausea and vomiting
An upper endoscopy is a much better and more accurate diagnostic tool for detecting growths and other abnormalities within the lining the digestive system than x-rays. Furthermore, many gastrointestinal issues can often be treated during the endoscopy. This includes the biopsy and/or removal of polyps, opening up narrowed areas of the esophagus or stomach, removing objects or obstructions within the intestinal tract or stopping a bleed.
Before your procedure, your gastroenterologist will give you detailed instructions to follow. This includes not eating or drinking anything for eight hours before your endoscopy. Patients with certain conditions such as a history of endocarditis (an infection of the heart valve) or those with artificial heart valves may need to take antibiotics beforehand to reduce their risk for an infection. Patients who take medications may still take their medication before the procedure with a little bit of water.
An endoscopy is performed under sedation so you won’t feel anything or remember the procedure. It’s important that you bring someone with you who will be able to drive you home afterwards, as sedation’s effects can last up to eight hours after. Prior to the procedure, a local anesthesia may be sprayed in the back of the throat to numb the area. You will then receive a combination or pain and sedation medication through an IV. Then the thin endoscope will be placed in the mouth and directed through the esophagus into the stomach. The procedure takes approximately 15-20 minutes.
If you are experiencing symptoms of bleeding, ulcers, or other issues within the digestive system, an endoscopy can be an amazing tool for determining what’s going on and what can be done to treat the problem.
C. difficile (Clostridium difficile) is an infection that should be talked about more often than it is despite the fact that it infects half a million Americans each year. While C. diff bacteria can be found within the gut of healthy individuals the healthy gut bacteria work to keep the potentially harmful bacteria in check. C. diff spores can be found in our environment through the air we breathe, or even the clothes on our back or the foods we consume. This is usually how we end up with C. diff in our guts.
However, sometimes circumstances arise in which C. diff bacteria are able to multiply within the gut. This most often occurs in someone who is taking antibiotics because while antibiotics are being used to fight an infection it can also kill off some of the healthy bacteria in our gut.
Unfortunately, C. diff bacteria are resistant to many kinds of antibiotics, giving it free range to thrive and multiply quickly within the gut. These bacteria, particularly in larger numbers, can also produce toxins. It’s usually the toxins themselves that lead to symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and fever.
C. diff infections can range from mild to severe. In milder cases, patients may liken their symptoms to an infection within the stomach (also known as gastroenteritis). These symptoms may be mild and self-limiting, lasting anywhere from a couple of days to multiple weeks. Usually, medication or treatment isn’t needed in order to treat the infection.
However, those dealing with severe diarrhea, blood in the stool, severe abdominal pain, fever, and dehydration should seek the care of a gastroenterologist as soon as possible. While these symptoms can be indicative of several different gastrointestinal issues, if you suspect that you might have a C. diff infection it’s important that you seek immediate medical treatment.
Since most people have C. diff within their gut, if it isn’t causing any issues then no treatment is necessary. As we mentioned before, those dealing with minor symptoms may be able to let the issue run its course. Those with severe infections may need to be hospitalized. If you are still taking the antibiotics that may have caused this problem then you will most likely need to stop taking it so that the healthy gut bacteria have a chance of returning and making the gut healthier.
Those with severe diarrhea or colitis (inflammation of the colon) may be prescribed very specific antibiotics known to kill the C. diff bacteria. In the meantime, make sure you are drinking enough water and fluids to keep your body hydrated. If diarrhea is severe, your doctor may need to give you fluids and nutrients through an IV.
Luckily, most people dealing with this infection will be able to fully recover, even if they don’t get treatment; however, those who are older or have a weak immune system should seek medical attention as soon as possible if they suspect an infection. While symptoms can be unpleasant, they will usually go away in a few weeks.
Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes severe and even bloody diarrhea that can result in abdominal pain and unexpected weight loss. While people have probably heard about Crohn’s disease more often than they have ulcerative colitis, this condition actually affects as many as 907,000 of the 1.6 million Americans living with IBD.
While ulcerative colitis can happen to anyone, a gastroenterologist most often diagnoses it during a person’s later teen years or by early adulthood. While there is no definitive cause of ulcerative colitis, a family history of this condition can certainly increase your chances of developing this chronic GI problem.
Those with ulcerative colitis experience diarrhea, which can be bloody at times. Some patients may experience rectal pain, occasional constipation, abdominal discomfort, fever, or weight loss. In order to diagnose this gastrointestinal issue, a GI specialist will often need to perform imaging tests such as a CT scan or run an endoscopy to check the health of the gastrointestinal tract and to look for signs of ulcerative colitis.
While there is currently no cure for this condition, there are certainly an array of medications and treatment options available to help you keep your symptoms and flare-ups in check. The type of treatment plan that your GI doctor will create for you will depend on the type and severity of your symptoms.
The main goals of treating ulcerative colitis are to reduce inflammation within the colon while also speeding up the remission process and making sure that your symptoms stay in remission for as long as possible. Of course, it is still possible, even with the right medication, to experience symptoms.
Common medications for treating ulcerative colitis include:
- Antibiotics: to target any infections within the GI tract
- Aminosalicylates: to treat mild to moderate inflammation within the colon
- Corticosteroids: for short-term treatment of moderate to severe symptoms
- Biologics: to target a specific protein, which leads to inflammation
Sometimes, over-the-counter medications and supplements may be used in conjunction with prescription medications. These may include vitamins and nutritional supplements, pain medications and antidiarrheal. If your ulcerative colitis doesn’t respond to these medications then you’ll want to discuss the benefits with your gastroenterologist of getting surgery to remove parts of the colon or rectum to alleviate severe or persistent symptoms.
What your gastroenterologist wants you to know
The right time to get a colonoscopy is if you are over 50 years old, or if you have a family history of colon cancer. There are also signs and symptoms to pay attention to which may indicate the need for a colonoscopy. You should see your gastroenterologist to schedule a colonoscopy if you have:
- Rectal bleeding
- Black, tarry stools which may indicate blood in your stool
- A family history of intestinal growths or polyps
- Chronic, recurrent constipation or diarrhea
- Chronic, recurrent pain in your abdomen
A colonoscopy is the primary screening tool to determine if you have colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy also helps to diagnose colorectal cancer at an early stage, when it is more easily treatable. Don’t delay having a colonoscopy because the longer you wait, the more serious colorectal cancer becomes.
The American Cancer Society states that colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in this country, with over 49,000 people dying from the disease this year alone.
A colonoscopy typically requires you to be sedated. A long, ultra-thin flexible tube is inserted into your rectum and guided up through your intestines. The tube contains a camera at one end which allows your gastroenterologist to view your colon, remove polyps or take a small sample of tissue for biopsy.
When you come in for your colonoscopy, be sure to bring a driver with you to take you home, and plan on spending 2 to 3 hours in the office. The procedure takes about 45 minutes, and additional time is required for you to recover from sedation.
Remember that early diagnosis is made possible by having a colonoscopy and that early diagnosis is critical to start early treatment. You don’t want to be a cancer statistic, so if you are over 50 or have a family history of colon cancer, take the time to schedule your colonoscopy. Protect your health by calling today!
People in commercials love to talk about diarrhea and constipation, but in real life, the subjects are rarely discussed, even though they affect us all. Understanding what causes the conditions may help you avoid them.
What causes diarrhea?
Diarrhea occurs when your stools are loose, runny or completely watery. Although occasional diarrhea won't harm your health, frequent diarrhea can lead to dehydration. The condition is often caused by viruses or bacterial infections. Washing your hands frequently, particularly after touching raw foods, and cooking food completely can help reduce your chance of developing diarrhea. If you know a friend or family member is sick or has diarrhea, don't share utensils or glasses with them.
Diarrhea can also occur due to stomach irritation caused by taking antibiotics or by an intolerance to certain foods. Lactose intolerance, a condition that occurs when you have difficulty digesting sugars found in dairy products, is a common cause of diarrhea. If you've ever had to dash to the restroom after eating ice cream or pasta covered in creamy Alfredo sauce, you might have lactose intolerance.
Some health conditions can also cause diarrhea, including diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic pancreatitis and Addison's disease.
What causes constipation?
If you're constipated, it may be difficult or impossible to pass stools. Even if your trip to the restroom is successful, the stools you produce may be small and hard. Diet can play a part in constipation. Reducing your intake of dairy products, caffeine, alcohol and junk food can be helpful.
Resisting the urge to defecate can lead to constipation. If you're at work and decide to ignore the urge to go, you may not be able to produce any stools when you finally get home. Constipation can also occur if you change your diet or normal routine, don't exercise regularly or eat foods that aren't usually part of your diet when you're away from home.
Some health conditions can also cause constipation, including
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Spinal cord injury
Occasional bouts of diarrhea and constipation are usually nothing to worry about, particularly if they accompany an illness. If you're frequently constipated or experience diarrhea often, it's a good idea to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases of the gastrointestinal system.